Food safety question: Does boiling kill bad bacteria?

Joined Aug 23, 2000
Boiled up some stock bones but left the pot out too long (out all day at 50-60 degrees). Now, I know that's not safe. I'm going to throw it out (sigh).

But if I strained it and boiled the stock, won't I kill any bad bugs?

I'm 99.9 percent sure I have to just throw it out anyway, not worth the risk. But I'm still curious.
Joined Jan 5, 2001
Just guessing here, but yes, boiling it would kill the bacteria. However, it won't get rid of any nasty taste left behind by them. A stock gone bad tastes pretty sour and no amount of boiling will take care of that. Try boiling it then taste it before you make any decisions. If it's for a food service operation, throw it out.
Joined Mar 2, 2002
Was it at 50-60 degrees the whole time, or just when you last measured temp? How hot would you estimate it was when you cut off the heat, and how big was the volume (ergo, how long was the temp in the "danger zone")?

I'm with you. I would throw it out, but I would also sigh. And wonder.

Joined Oct 28, 1999
The hard & fast rule is that if a potentially hazardous product is in "the zone" of 40-140f for 4 hours, out it goes. Given that beef is on the list of potentially hazardous items, there really isn't a gray area. Sorry :(


Staff member
Joined Oct 7, 2001
There are really two ways for those little microbes to make you sick. One is through infection, the other through intoxication. In an infection it is the microbes themselves that make you sick, and yes boiling the stock for a period of time would kill them off. But an intoxication is where the microbes make you sick from the waste products they produce, through feeding, respiration and reproduction. These toxic substances are not always destroyed by boiling. One example is the botulism toxin. It will survive most normal boilings, and there are many others. Chances are your stock would be safe, those little bugs are not that common, but why risk it. The few dollars and little time you spent making it, doesn't justify making yourself or someone else sick. And the potential for really making someone sick, or even killing them is there. So your safest bet is , when in doubt throw it out.


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
Listen to Pete.

Even if you do handle it properly, boiling doesn't kill everything.Botulism spores can take the boiling with ease, for example as can some viruses. So what you do with it after boiling is very important.

Thus home canning is as much about pH management as it is about sterilization.

Joined Sep 21, 2001
In the bigger world of food-borne illness, live_to_cooks' scenerio is low-risk. Cross-contamination(raw chicken spilled in the cooked stock, or from someones' hands or bodily fluids getting in there)is the biggest cause of foodborne illness. Lets face it- we have all eaten improperly stored foods and lived. It depends how long the food sat within the "optimal" growth range temperature range. 50-60F room temp is different than room temp of 90F. But no, I wouldn't serve it.
I go over what I call "HAACP for dummies" just to convey simple food safety guidelines with our employees just because if the soup gets left out all night it gets tossed.
A few guidelines:
1. Danger zones-temperature and time.
2. Cross-contamination risk.
3. Holding and re-heating.
Since we are a soup place I hammer this stuff into everybody's head. Crude but effective.
Sounds like everybody here is giving you the same answer.
Joined Nov 9, 2003
i feel your pain at having to throw the stock out, but agree with all that this is the only option.
perhaps this will make you feel better:
a few years ago i was making chickenstock. i got one of the prep/dishwashers to cut the mire poix for it and walked him through it step by step. when it was ready to strain i explained the process to him, showed him the tools he would need and set him upon the task. as there was a bit of a language problem, i started him off and left him to complete the task...
wasn't i suprised to return and find him smiling proudly at a job well done....he strained it alright...only he got rid of the stock and had kept all the bones! needless to say, we had an emergency delivery from our chicken guy the next morning!
Joined May 16, 2003
If you have a Black Widow Spider on hand, however, you can treat the botulism.

The botulism toxin inhibits a neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine, which plays a role in muscular functioning.

Black Widow Spider venom does just the opposite, it increases it.

Both can be fatal.

So if you get botulism, have a Black Widow bite you, or if you get bit first, eat some contaminated food.

The problem would be getting just the right dose of the other.

Joined Mar 2, 2002
That's really interesting, MarkV. I didn't know that. I wonder if the spider remedy would work for too much bo-tox in the face ? ;)

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